Journalism in 2018 is at a crossroads, with heightened scrutiny placed on the industry. Within this setting, there is a continued need for trained journalists prepared to take on the varied issues of the day. For the past 29 years, the CNN Fellowship program has been working to assemble international journalists from a variety of backgrounds for sessions in Atlanta – giving them experience and exposure to CNN’s global brand.
The program, then known as the International Professional Program, was founded by Ted Turner in 1989 in Atlanta. Since that time, the program has hosted 1,187 participants from 136 countries and 393 news organizations worldwide. Chief of Protocol Affairs Sonia Tucker joined CNN in 1996 as an intern and now leads the fellowship with CNN Special Project Producer Brittani Kollar.
“What we hope you take out of this program are the experiences and a better understanding of journalism,” Tucker said, speaking at a meeting of the Fellows. Each track of the program, from journalism to digital and leadership, meets with key CNN figures and gets to experience metro Atlanta’s tech ecosystem and unmatched culture during the Fellow’s stay in the city.
Today, metro Atlanta is an economic powerhouse rising to disrupt the status quo. With 15 Fortune 500 company headquarters in the region, a long history and legacy around Civil Rights and the presence of the world’s most-traveled airport, there is no better place to assemble a group of international journalists.
Ted Turner, while no longer with CNN, still meets with each group of the program, recently providing his thoughts and reflections on his long career – also built in Atlanta. Other experiences for the Fellows include meeting Turner and CNN’s executive leadership team and on-air talent, as well as attending many of Atlanta’s cultural touchstones such as the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park and Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and much more.
The CNN Journalism Fellowship (CJF) is composed of some of the best and brightest in international journalism. The program is the industry gold standard in journalist training with the world’s leading news brand. Attendees are exposed to every facet of CNN’s processes as a broadcast and digital publisher. Each Fellow is from an international media platform that is either an affiliate or has ties with Turner Broadcasting and CNN.
“Journalists leave the CJF with a better understanding of CNN operations and how to better leverage their organization’s relationship with the company,” Tucker said.
Elert Yzeiri is a member of the program, hailing from Albania and serving as executive producer for A2 News. Yzeiri and colleague Aurora Sulce are currently working to build a 24-hour news network in their country and will be taking the lessons they are learning through the program back to Albania.
“We have about 120 staff right now, and it will be difficult, but we know there is an audience for [24-hour news],” Yzeiri said.
CNN’s legacy of being the first 24-hour news network will contribute to Yzeiri’s goal, with the ultimate objective of sharing information and creating stronger lines of communication across the globe.
Barnábas Turai is another program member – ATV’s foreign news editor in Hungary, with an interest in Israel and the Middle East. The Fellowship program, in this way, assembles perspectives and backgrounds from a wide swathe of the world. Not every member is a journalist by training, but they all seek to tell the news.
“I am a reporter – a foreign news analyst – but many of us come from various backgrounds,” Turai said. “I did not study journalism; I studied international relations, whereas others come with business backgrounds.”
Program founder Ted Turner recently revealed his own Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis, and, despite the condition, he still has the energy and passion to meet with the Fellows. During their meeting, Turner relayed his belief that journalism is about making the world a better place.
Turner has channeled his beliefs into multiple avenues, including serving as chairman on the United Nations Foundation, co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, chairman of the Turner Foundation, and co-founder of Ted’s Montana Grill. During the meeting, Fellows were encouraged to ask him about his life and pursuits, of which CNN has been one of the brightest lights. Turner likened starting CNN to taking a boat out across to sea to see how far it would go. Turner will be 80 years old this year.
After the meeting, the Fellows reflected on the program and lessons learned. Retaining talent, building an effective team, and keeping your heart in the right place were some of the learnings that will be accompanying each Fellow as they return to their home countries.
“The impact to bring strangers together and make the world a better place is a huge responsibility. Sometimes the world is too small, and you have a chance to meet great friends from all over the world,” Yzeiri said. “But sometimes the world is too big because my wonderful friends are too far away.”
Atlanta not only plays a central role in connecting the digital content produced by these journalists to the homes and devices of a global audience. These journalists also get to tell a piece of the Atlanta story to their markets and around the world.
The CNN digital track team will follow this group of Fellows in the coming month, representing another assembly from countries such as Vietnam, India, Romania, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Germany, Australia, Argentina, Taiwan, Panama, and Colombia.
You can follow the CNN Fellows Program on Instagram – @cnnfellows – for more from the group. The Metro Atlanta Chamber will be engaging future cohorts of the Fellowship. Reach out to Jorge Fernandez for more information.